By Rob Hay
A modern-day Robin Hood who "liked playing God" plundered rich people's bank accounts and transferred the money to the poor using a computer in the Western Bay.
But hacker Thomas Gawith got caught - and found himself facing six charges of computer crime.
Gawith pleaded guilty before Judge Gregory Ross in Palmerston North District Court and was convicted and remanded on bail until March 2 for sentencing. He is from the Manawatu but was staying in Tauranga at the time of his crimes.
The Manawatu Standard reported that Gawith had obtained access codes for Kiwibank accounts and used a computer at the Tauranga address to take money from those who had it and transferred it to those who didn't.
The court was told that on June 7, last year he drew $7700 from three accounts and the next day broke into another three accounts taking $6050.
He then deposited it into accounts with low balances.
Sergeant Johnny Ireland said in court that Gawith told police he believed he had done nothing wrong as he had not kept the money for himself, Sergeant Ireland said.
"He said he liked playing God but was unable to think things through properly."
The money was restored to the correct accounts as soon as Gawith's transactions were discovered.
Lawyer Mark Alderdice sought bail to allow Gawith to go to Manukau, where he was due to graduate from the Salvation Army's Bridge programme. He was then due to return to live at his parents' address in Palmerston North until his March 2 appearance.
Electronic Crimes Lab national manager Maarten Kleintjes told the Bay of Plenty Times this type of crime where money was moved to different accounts rather than stolen was more about thrill-seeking and was not very common.
"There is little benefit in it for the hacker and they get bored of it quite quickly.
"It's not a big problem. It's just people being stupid. The real concern is how did he get the names and passwords."
Mr Kleintjes said it was important for people to safeguard themselves against computer crime. The best way to do this was for people to have "two-factor" identification when accessing their bank accounts on the internet.
An example of two factor identification was an ATM card where the user was verified by both a swipe card and a personal identification number.
Some banks already provide two-factor identification to customers through an electronic number generator, or "token" people can carry with them. This generates a random number which corresponds to a number being generated simultaneously at the bank.
Online banking customers then enter this number when they are accessing their account.
It was also important people check their accounts regularly he said, so if money was missing it could be tracked as soon as possible.
He said the police take cases like this very seriously.
By Rob Hay